Project helps seniors show their artistic side

Mural created in class depicts Lansdowne in 1890


A wall in the activity room at the Lansdowne Senior Center needs to be spackled and repainted because the 17-foot-by-6-foot canvas left nicks in the plaster when it was moved to the all-purpose room so visitors could see it.

With its scene of Hammonds Ferry Road circa 1890, the oversized mural was partially hidden in its original location, said Suzanne Levin, the center's director.

"It's amazing," Levin said. "We are very proud" of it.

The idea for the painting originated with the center's former art teacher, but seven senior artists persevered for more than five months to complete it.

"We didn't really believe we could do it, but it came out OK," said Elizabeth Lane, 77, one of the artists. "It depicts Lansdowne in the 1890s. We didn't even think we could do that. We went beyond our expectations."

Work on the mural began in late December and was completed the first week of June, Levin said. It took the seven artists more than 500 hours and 35 tubes of paint of 25 colors.

Levin said one artist, Patricia Airey, was the driving force of the project, but each of the artists added his or her own touch.

The five houses in the painting have a different look, "which is typical of a real neighborhood," Levin said.

The first house is gray with green shutters, peach-colored curtains and a yellow wreath on a green front door. The neighboring marmalade-colored house has grass painted in long strokes while the yard of the first house is painted with a pointillism style.

Three more houses are pictured along Hammond's Ferry: One is yellow with seven chickens that appear to be running in the yard; another is olive green with a woman hanging white sheets on a laundry line; and the last is sea green, standing next to a garden with high cornstalks and tomatoes on the vine.

In the distance, between the second and third houses, the painting shows an old church that stands today, Levin said.

A horse-drawn Weber's Bakery truck is painted on the dirt road and faces the Lansdowne Railroad station, which Levin said also still stands. Sitting on the tracks next to the station is a black engine, painted with No. 12, followed by a black coal car, red boxcar and caboose.

The painting was suggested by former art teacher Carol Mondshour, who left before the project was started. But the artists, who researched it, decided to continue anyway.

The center's new art teacher, Jane Brochin, took over.

"They had a drawing on an index card that looked nothing like that," Brochin said of the mural.

Airey, 70, who Brochin said can "just draw out of her head," took paper the same size as the canvas from the community room and taped it to a wall in the hallway of her apartment building in Lansdowne.

"I drew things I knew were around then, and I took it to the next painting class," Airey said.

The original painting was primarily a train, but Airey added more elements after talking to a neighbor who had lived in Lansdowne all her life and others who had lived in the area a long time.

The class members decided they liked Airey's sketch the most, and it was traced onto the canvas for the group to start painting.

"I think it turned out pretty good," Airey said. "I didn't think it'd take as long as it did, but something that big with little tiny brushes ... . Everybody's got their own style, but it doesn't look like six [other] people painted it."

Each member of the group received several certificates during a dedication last month. Levin plans to hang the citations next to the painting.

A plaque already hangs there with the title -- "Olde Lansdowne" -- and lists the names of the instructor and artists.

Gloria Warfield, 70, thinks the mural is "a good thing" for the senior center.

"I think it really does something for the place," she said.

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